The leather industry has a bigger impact on the environment than consumers realize. Because the leather goods production hides many processes in the background that the end customer cannot see – from growing cattle feed to cattle breeding to using harmful chemical agents.
Obtaining Leather Process
Although leather is touted as an organic, biodegradable, and durable material, for which it is worth paying a higher amount, the other side of things is not very visible – the environmental impact. Several studies have shown permanent damage caused by the leather industry.
The leather industry most often processes beef and pork leather. Cattle consume a huge amount of food. Therefore, breeders often feed cattle soybeans. Eighty percent of the Amazon deforestation is caused by soybean production; this problem can also be attributed to the leather industry.
Cattle produce significant amounts of methane. This greenhouse gas is 80 times more harmful to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. According to a 2006 Food and Agriculture Organization report, “cattle are one of the most important contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems.”
Chemical Leather Tanning
Tanning is a necessary process of leather treatment. Chromium, a commonly used reagent, is a harmful chemical to the environment. Some countries with insufficient environmental laws, such as India, China, and Bangladesh, are handling waste poorly, causing chromium to enter the groundwater and soil.
Science Direct states in its article, “1 metric ton of raw material provide only 20 percent as a finished leather product and more than 60 percent as solid and liquid waste, and that liquid waste often contains chromium.”
If consumers stop buying leather goods and focus more on vegan leather products and other sustainable materials, they can help improve the environment. Every step counts.
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